Statement by President JG Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa at a Debate of the United Nations Security Council on Strengthening and Consolidating Preventive Diplomacy, New York, September 22, 2011


Mr President, We thank you for convening this timely debate, which allows us to further explore ways to strengthen and consolidate preventive diplomacy.

We also thank the Secretary-General for his statement and for the report on which it was based.

In our view the theme of this year’s Security Council Summit complements the theme of the 66th Session of the General Assembly, which is “The role of mediation in the settlement of disputes by peaceful means”.

It proves that the United Nations in its entirety is focused on the primary objectives and principles of the Charter. Preventive diplomacy is anchored in the Charter of the United Nations. Article 33 of the UN Charter specifically provides for the pacific settlement of disputes.

In 2005 during the World Summit world leaders reaffirmed this principle in the Millennium Declaration by stating: “We are determined to establish a just and lasting peace all over the world in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.

Today we gather once again in this Council to recommit ourselves to the noble objective of international peace and its achievement through preventive diplomacy. In fact, the necessity for preventive diplomacy has been reaffirmed by this Council many times before.

Last July, under the Presidency of Nigeria, this Council acknowledged the importance of a peaceful settlement of disputes. In September last year, under the Turkish Presidency, this Council at Summit level stressed that the: “comprehensive and coherent use of preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace building tools is important in creating the conditions for sustainable peace”.

It is a fact that preventive diplomacy initiatives are more cost-effective than the deployment of peacekeepers once a conflict has broken out.

For preventive diplomacy to be an effective tool at our disposal, it requires a sustained injection of resources to succeed. This will enable the UN, to plan and timeously deploy appropriate human and financial resources in potential conflict situations.

We welcome the progress that has already been made by the United Nations through a plethora of initiatives.

These include the Secretary-General’s Good Offices, Special Envoys, the establishment of an early warning system, the deployment of special political missions and of the Mediation Support Unit, the deployment of country teams and regional offices, as well as other diplomatic initiatives aimed at preventing conflicts.

Whilst these fulfil a central role in conflict prevention, it is our opinion that a great deal can still be done, especially through utilising the unique capacities and experiences which regional organisations provide.

The Security Council has often stressed the importance of partnerships between the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organisations.

In this regard, we appreciate the efforts undertaken by such regional organizations as the Organization of American States, the Union of South American States and the African Union, to name but a few.

With regard to the African Union specifically, it is important to note that since its inception in 2002, it has established and consolidated a comprehensive Peace and Security Architecture.

This Architecture is based on a paradigm that recognises preventive diplomacy, post-conflict reconstruction, and development as central to eradicating conflicts on our continent.

These mechanisms that the African Union has put in place, bear testimony to the commitment of our continent in addressing peace and security challenges in a comprehensive manner.

The African Union has also made great strides in developing its early warning systems that help the organisation to determine which countries are likely to lapse or relapse into conflict.

These mechanisms afford the organisation the opportunity to avert an imminent conflict. However, for these systems to be effective, early warning should be followed by early action.

In our sub-region, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) continues to play a critical role in ensuring sub-regional peace and stability. In this context, its Organ on Politics, Defence and Security has undertaken numerous preventive efforts in quelling potential conflicts.

It has also spent a great deal of energy and resources in resolving conflicts through dialogue and mediation, such as in Madagascar.

Moreover, Mr President, it is essential, that the efforts by both the African Union and the numerous sub-regional organisations across the continent working on preventive diplomacy be respected and supported by the United Nations and the international community as a whole.

In fact, this Council has adopted several decisions in which it expresses its intention to build a strong partnership with the African Union in this regard.

However, over the last few months, we have seen this partnership falter as the African Union has been undermined in its preventive diplomatic efforts in cases such as Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan and Libya.

Especially in the case of Libya the AU initiative to ensure a political rather than a military solution to the Libyan crisis, was deliberately undermined in spite of the decision in Resolution 1973 to support the African Union Roadmap.

Such blatant acts of disregard for regional initiatives have the potential to undermine the confidence that regional organisations have in the United Nations as an impartial and widely respected mediator in conflicts.

Although conflict prevention remains the primary responsibility of Member States, civil society also has a role to play.

In addition, it remains imperative that the international community and the UN in particular, provide support to local or national conflict prevention mechanisms.

These efforts can be executed without negating the important principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of States.

Mr President,

Most importantly, we must bear in mind the link between development and security. Prevention will be optimized if the root causes of conflicts are addressed effectively.

As the 2011 World Development Report on Conflict, Security and Development reminds us – the root causes of conflict in the majority of instances are related to the lack of resources or to the unequal development or distribution of often scarce resources.

For the international community to address these causes effectively, strengthened and enhanced cooperation and information sharing between the UN Security Council and other UN bodies such as the Peace building Commission, are required.

Furthermore, there is an essential need for greater coherence, coordination and interaction between the various UN organs and other international organizations such as the International Financial Institutions.

Furthermore, Member States should share their experiences in building the United Nation’s capacity in preventive diplomacy.

Mr President,

There is no one-size- fits-all solution in conflict prevention diplomacy. We should be open to consider important elements that can contribute to the prevention of conflicts.

These include cultural orientation, local preferences and local expertise in developing strategies aimed at preventive diplomacy.

Mr President,

In this regard, the full and effective participation of women at all levels and stages of prevention of conflict as well as in all aspects of the peaceful settlement and resolution of disputes is critical. 

We therefore reiterate our appreciation for the establishment of UN Women, as an institution that acknowledges the need to enhance the role of women in all aspects of life and in society, including preventive diplomacy.

In conclusion, Mr. President, South Africa supports the Presidential Statement before us as we believe that it makes a significant contribution to our preventive diplomacy efforts, and the execution of the Council’s mandate to uphold and preserve international peace and security.

I thank you.